Hawk in a Chicken Coop
Chapter 4: A Second Attempt at Conscription
October 21, 1986
Major Chavan had a problem. The rebels were running all over the southern portion of Inra. The regular army wasn’t able to catch up with them. Everyone said that it was because the army was slow, that it took too much time to provision the forces, load them in the trucks and get them to the destination.
He knew the real problem. The men in charge wouldn’t move until they knew with absolute certainty where the rebels were located. However, by the time they arrived the rebels had moved on already. The army was always one step behind, never ahead. It seemed as though the idea of placing the army where the enemy was heading was a foreign concept to the command staff.
The rebels weren’t his problem. His problem was that he hadn’t had a moment’s peace ever since Colonel Kadam had heard about some mysterious academy. It was rumored that it created cadets who were super soldiers. The colonel was confident that with twenty of these super soldiers that he could stop the rebels dead in their tracks.
Colonel Kadam had heard about the academy from a childhood friend who just happened to be a constable in the town just south of Major Chavan’s base. This mysterious academy was located just south of that town. Major Chavan hadn’t heard any rumors about this school and didn’t quite believe that it existed. After all, shouldn’t he have known about something like that?
After considerable pressure from Colonel Kadam, Major Chavan had investigated further. Much to his surprise, he discovered that there was some sort of military academy south of the nearby town. He talked to the constable and learned about three cadets taking apart a rather notorious local gang despite being outnumbered. They had even managed to do it without sustaining a single injury to themselves.
With the rumor confirmed, he sent Lieutenant Rangan to fetch twenty of these cadets. It shouldn’t have been that big of a deal. The cadets were already training to be soldiers so conscripting them into the army would only speed up the process a little bit. Who really cared if they wanted to be soldiers or not? They were already trained to be soldiers. The law allowed them to conscript cadets into service.
Then Lieutenant Rangan returned after having lost all of the men in his command with the exception of his sergeant. He blamed it as a result of an attempted rape of one girl who resisted with deadly force. He didn’t believe Lieutenant Rangan’s story despite the fact that the sergeant’s story was more or less the same as the lieutenant’s story. The differences were enough to make it credible, but the basic story was just too fantastic to be true.
Major Chavan decided that today was the day he was going to get rid of his problem. He brought the lieutenant in to go over the story one more time. It was just as unbelievable this time as it was the previous times he’d heard it.
“Did General Wynn know you were coming?”
“No. No one knew where we were going.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes. I didn’t tell my driver the destination until we were on the way. The driver of the truck just followed us and never knew where we were headed.”
“So there’s no way this girl could have been a setup?”
“I don’t see how. She was next to him when we showed up. I assume she’s his aide.”
“How old did you say she was?”
“She’s fifteen years old and she killed twelve fully trained soldiers?”
“Yes. She managed to do that in less than a minute.”
“There were no cuts or bullet wounds.”
“I find that hard to believe.”
“Why do you say that?”
“Sergeant Rao saw her shoot the snake. She didn’t aim her pistol but she hit it in the head at fifteen feet.”
“What do you mean, she didn’t aim her pistol?”
“She pulled it out of the holster and fired it while holding it down by her hip.”
He imitated firing the pistol from the hip just as the sergeant had done when describing what had happened. He could understand hitting in the general area of the snake, but hitting it in the head was just too incredible.
“I never heard of such a thing. He must have been mistaken.”
“Then there was when she killed everyone.”
“What exactly did you see?”
“We saw her get into the bed. The lights went out. The men sneaked up on her and they grabbed her. Then, all of sudden, she’s not there – she’s falling from the rafters on top of them. There was no way for her to get from the bed to the rafters.”
“You still feel the video feed that you watched was doctored?
“I don’t know. It had to have been. It’s the only explanation that I can come up with that makes sense,” Lieutenant Rangan said.
Major Chavan rubbed his chin while thinking about it. He was halfway convinced those folks had played some kind of game on Lieutenant Rangan. There were too many inconsistencies. First, Rao thought the cadet was a guy, but the guy turned into a girl. It must have been a boy and they substituted a girl for him somehow. Second, there was no way that a fifteen year old girl could take out that many trained soldiers, so there had to be more people in that room than the video showed.
Lieutenant Rangan’s mistake had been to let General Wynn dictate the encounter. That general had pulled Rangan away from the Academy to a place where he could control everything.
Major Chavan wasn’t going to make that mistake. He’d drive up there and force his way in. Then he’d start dictating terms.
“I want a jeep along with four trucks that have 50s mounted on their roofs out front at noon. Grab forty men and some drivers. We’re going to pay a surprise visit to that compound of theirs. I’m going to drive in there, and lay down the law.”
“That isn’t possible. You’ll have to go to the administration compound.”
Having no intention of going to the administrative compound, Major Chavan asked, “What’s at the administrative compound?”
“One administration building, a barracks, and a building for officer’s quarters. That’s it.”
“Is there a staff there?”
“We only saw one woman at the check-in desk. The rest of the place seemed deserted.”
“So we could grab one hostage.”
“One hostage doesn’t get us anything. If the woman is not there, then all we’d control are empty buildings.”
Lieutenant Rangan said, “I didn’t think of that.”
“No, I’d rather go up to the main gate of that Academy of theirs and just drive right through it.”
“That’s not going to be possible.”
“The entire place is surrounded by a huge wall. There’s only one gate and it has a monster door on it. You’re not going to be able to drive through it. It’s solid steel. You might be able to blast a hole in it with a cannon.”
“I guess we’ll have to get a battering ram.”
“That won’t work. It’s a steel drawbridge. It’s all one piece and opens downwards. You wouldn’t want to be under it when it opens. It’ll flatten you like a pancake.”
“Does it have a moat?”
“Okay. So we attack it somewhere along wall.”
“If you want to assault the compound at the wall, there’s a huge field of tall grass that you’ll have to cross to get to it. It’s 300-yards of open field where you’ll be sitting ducks to anyone on the wall. You’re not going to be able to crawl up to the wall. There are poisonous snakes living in the grass. We saw them. They are nasty.
“Once you get to the wall, you still have to get over it. It’s ten feet tall. It’s concrete, probably reinforced concrete.”
Major Chavan was somewhat impressed with how much the lieutenant had observed during his time there. Of course, all he could do was describe the exterior of the place. He wished that he had a helicopter so that he could do a fly over of the complex, but they were off at the border or chasing rebels.
It sounded like the place was prepared for a classical siege. It seemed strange to consider a citadel built in the modern world with walls and heavy duty gates. He wasn’t going to play that game. There wasn’t going to be any siege tower or battering ram. That was fifteenth century.
Taking that compound would be easy. All that was required was to put enough lead in the air to keep their heads down and to scale the wall. If all they have in there is 15-year-old kids, they’d probably be pissing themselves as soon as one of the 50s opened up.
Major Chavan said, “Let’s add another truck to the convoy. Load it up with the tallest ladders you can find. We’ll drive up to that gate; I’ll order them to open it. If they don’t, we’ll lay down fire with the 50s while our guys get ladders up to scale the wall. We’ll be all over their asses before they know it.”
He wished that he would have a chance for the men to practice with the ladders, but he was pretty sure that there was a security leak somewhere. The people at the academy had to have known that the lieutenant was coming. They were just too prepared.
“I don’t know. You haven’t seen these folks. I’m telling you they’re scary.”
“You’ve never been in combat, have you?”
“The enemy is always scary until you defeat them.”
“I’ll have to take your word on that, sir.”
At a little after two in the afternoon, General Wynn stood atop the gate watching the convoy drive down the road towards him. They were arriving later than he had expected. The vehicles for the convoy had arrived at the departure point before noon, but sat there for another hour while ladders were found and loaded into one of the trucks. His instincts had told him they wanted to interrupt lunch and be there by 12:30. Well, lunch was over a long time ago.
He looked to his left and right inspecting the cadets. He was reassured to find twenty cadets pledged to Shield watching the road. There was a kind of feral look of anticipation on their faces that was a little frightening. They relished the idea of being able to protect everyone in the compound.
He could have assembled a larger force. When he had asked for volunteers, every cadet pledged to Shield in the first and second class volunteered. The only way to settle it was to select twenty cadets from the first class by lottery. There were a lot of disappointed cadets.
“Cadet Chang, is everything prepared?”
“Yes. Everyone is in place, and knows what to expect. We’ve got charges placed out from the gate to the road. Every 15 feet is individually armed. Markers are placed.”
“What would you say if I suggested that you take out the last two trucks with the explosives? The way I figure it is the last two trucks will be a little out of range with the jeep and three trucks between us and them.”
“I think you’re absolutely right about the distance factors. I’ll pass along the suggestion.”
“Good. I think the other cadets are anticipating a little bit of a fight.”
Cadet Chang smiled broadly and answered, “We are looking forward to it. Now all we have to do is wait.”
“That, I think, is often the hardest part.”
The jeep leading the convoy pulled up to a stop at a reasonable distance from the gate. A man climbed out of the jeep and stood in front of it.
He shouted, “I’m here to talk to General Wynn.”
“I’m General Wynn.”
He shouted, “I order you to open the gate.”
General Wynn shouted, “Why don’t you go in the little guard house and use the phone? It’ll be easier than shouting at each other!”
Major Chavan walked over to the guard house. It was a little building just off the road. He looked inside remembering the stories about snakes. It was empty. He went inside and picked up the handset.
“Hello. This is General Wynn. Who are you?”
“I’m Major Chavan.”
“The last time, you guys sent a lieutenant. I guess I should be honored that we’ve gotten a major this time.”
“I order you to open the gate.”
“I guess you are here to conscript some of my cadets. You want to force them into your army despite what they may want.”
“You can’t have them. You don’t have the authority or the legal right. I won’t let you conscript them.”
“You have no choice. Now open up the gate and let me in.”
There was a click from the door of the guardhouse. Major Chavan tried to open the door and found that it was locked. There was a little window through which he could stick his head out of the guard shack.
Did they really think that locking him in that little gatehouse was going to stop him? Now he was going to show them.
He shouted, “Execute Open Says Me!”
He watched the men standing at the 50s start to pull the bolt back and then saw their heads explode before they were even able to get off a shot. The last two trucks disappeared in giant fireballs.
He looked back at the wall and saw cadets leaping from the wall while firing their rifles. He couldn’t believe that they were actually firing their rifles in free-fall rather than focusing on how they would hit the ground. They didn’t appear to be aiming, but when he turned to look back at the trucks he could see the soldiers being jerked around and splashes of red appearing on their uniforms as rounds hit them.
His driver was dead.
It sounded to him like a thousand guns were firing all at once, but it was really only 20 rifles firing, and none of them were on automatic. So far, he had not seen one of his men manage to fire a shot, although a couple tried before being hit three or four times each.
As soon as a cadet hit the ground, he or she was charging ahead throwing grenades into the cab of the trucks. He wasn’t even sure why they bothered. He didn’t think any of the drivers were still alive based on the spider web patterns in the windshields. For some reason, they skipped bombing the cab of the first truck.
Major Chavan stared in horror as the cadets calmly went through and made sure of their kills. There was such a cold-blooded ruthlessness to the way they moved through the destruction they had wrought that he wasn’t even sure that they were human. They were killing machines.
Major Chavan entire body was trembling to the point where he couldn’t even hold the phone any more. He dropped it and it hung suspended by its cord. This was an absolute nightmare. He thought it would never end.
All of a sudden it was quiet.
One of the cadets walked up to where the major’s jeep was parked and shouted, “All clear!”
There was an answering all clear from the wall followed by a shout of, “Open the gate.”
The gate slowly lowered revealing a very large tractor parked in the passage. Once the gate was open the tractor started up. It then drove out of the gate pulling a mower. The arms of the mower lowered and the tractor swerved onto the grass. It cut a swath ten feet wide along the road for the length of the convoy. When it reached the end of the convoy, it turned and cut a similar swath along the other side of the road.
Major Chavan watched the cadets walk around the freshly mowed grass, occasionally firing a shot from their pistols and then flipping the dead body of a snake off into the taller grass. It seemed to him that they weren’t even aiming their pistols when shooting the snakes. He didn’t know how they knew where the snakes were under the fallen grass, but they seemed to know what they were doing. After a while, there were no more shots.
A small golf cart with a flat bed left the passage. He recognized the cargo it carried: body bags. He raised his hands to cover his eyes. His hands were shaking so bad that he could barely control their motion.
The cadets went to the last truck of the convoy. They went through it, loading bodies into body bags. It surprised him that they handled the bodies with a high degree of reverence. There was no stuffing the deceased into the bag and tossing it off the truck. Instead, each body was carefully placed in a body bag and then lowered to the ground.
Having cleared out the last truck of the convoy, the cadets moved to the truck before it. Again they demonstrated the same concern for the bodies they were removing. The difference between the cold-blooded killers in the midst of battle and the caring concerned humans taking care of the deceased was disturbing. He had no idea how anyone could be both.
Major Chavan never noticed what had happened with the tractor but it had disappeared. A bulldozer emerged from the tunnel next. It drove along the grass until it reached the last truck. It veered onto the road and then pushed the demolished truck down the road. The remains of the truck were pushed off the gate road to a place near the main road, as if to serve as a warning for others who might try to force their way into the Academy.
Although he barely had the strength to stand, there was no way he was not going to watch what was happening. He watched as the trucks were pushed back to the main road, and left by the side of the road. They became small piles of twisted burned out wrecks decorating the entrance to the Academy, just one result of today’s mission.
A cadet went into the last remaining truck and started it. He pulled it off of the road. The major watched wondering why they hadn’t pushed it to join the other wrecks.
A cadet lifted the body of driver of the major’s jeep out and placed it in a body bag. The cadet carried the body over to the side of the gate road and laid it down on the ground. For the first time, Major Chavan could hear what the cadets said.
“May the War Gods nurture you until it is time for your next battle. We were well met in this one. May we meet again on the great battlefield. We are brother warriors in service to the Gods of War.”
He was surprisingly touched by the comment although chilled at the idea that these cadets had been raised with a religion dedicated to war. In the past, such religions had produced fearless warriors who killed without hesitation or guilt.